zaterdag 13 oktober 2012
Herman Melville -- 13 oktober 1849
Ik wandelde over het dek toen ik een van de tussendekspassagiers over de reling zag kijken; ik volgde zijn blik & en zag een man in het water liggen, met zijn hoofd hoog boven de golven uit, - op zo'n twaalf voet van het schip, precies ter hoogte van de loopplank. Heel even dacht ik dat ik droomde; want niemand anders scheen te zien wat ik zag. Meteen daarop schreeuwde ik: 'Man overboord!' & spoedde me naar het achterdek De kapitein kwam toegesneld, helemaal confuus. Ik maakte de talie van de achterste reddingboot los en wierp hem naar de man, die nu vlakbij het schip dreef. Hij kreeg hem niet te pakken & ik klom over de reling, tot een voet of twee boven de zee, & wierp de lijn opnieuw in zijn richting. Nu kreeg hij hem wel te pakken. Intussen dromden er behoorlijk wat toeschouwers - matrozen & anderen - bij de verschansing, maar niemand leek eropuit om hem te redden. Integendeel, ze waarschuwden mij dat ik niet overboord moest vallen.
Nadat hij de lijn ongeveer een kwart minuut had vastgehouden, liet hij hem los & hij dreef weg naar de achtersteven, onder de rust van de bezaan. Vier of vijf matrozen sprongen naar beneden, op de rustijzers, en wierpen hem nog meer lijnen toe. Maar zijn gedrag was onverklaarbaar; hij had zichzelf kunnen redden, als hij had gewild. De uitdrukking op zijn gezicht in het water trof me. Het stond vrolijk. Ten slotte verdween hij onder de scheepsromp & iedereen riep: 'Hij is weg!' We renden naar het achterdek en zagen hem nog één keer, terwijl hij wegdreef - een paar luchtbellen & dat was het. Geen sloep werd neergelaten, geen zeil werd gereefd, haast niemand die een woord sprak. De man zonk als een baksteen. Later hoorden we dat hij gestoord was & overboord was gesprongen.
Herman Melville (1819-1891) was een Amerikaanse schrijver, auteur van Moby Dick. Hij hield journalen bij van zijn zeereizen.
Last evening was very pleasant. Walked the deck with the German, Mr Adler till a late hour, talking of "Fixed Fate, Free-will, foreknowledge absolute" &c. His philosophy is Colredegian: he accepts the Scriptures as divine, & yet leaves himself free to inquire into Nature. He does not take it, that the Bible is absolutely infallible, & that anything opposed to it in Science must be wrong. He beleives that there are things out of God and independant of him, --things that would have existed were there no God:--such as that two & two make four; for it is not that God so decrees mathematically, but that in the very nature of things, the fact is thus. --Rose early this morning, opened my bull's eye window, & looked out to the East. The sun was just rising, the horizon was red;--a familiar sight to me, reminding me of old times. Before breakfast went up to the mast-head, by way of gymnastics. About 10 o'clock A. M. the wind rose, the rain fell, & the deck looked dismally enough. By dinner time, it blew half a gale, & the passengers mostly retired to their rooms, sea sick. After dinner, the rain ceased, but it still blew stiffly, & we were slowly forging along under close-reefed topsails--mainsail furled. I was walking the deck, when I perceived one of the steerage passengers looking over the side; I looked too, & saw a man in the water, his head completely lifted above the waves, --about twelve feet from the ship, right abreast the gangway. For an instant, I thought I was dreaming; for no one else seemed to see what I did. Next moment, I shouted "Man overboard!" & turned to go aft. The Captain ran forward, greatly confused. I dropped overboard the tackle-fall of the quarter-boat, & swung it towards the man, who was now drifting close to the ship. He did not get hold of it, & I got over the side, within a foot or two of the sea, & again swung the rope towards him. He now got hold of it. By this time, a crowd of people --sailors & others--were clustering about the bulwarks; but none seemed very anxious to save him. They warned me however, not to fall overboard. After holding on to the rope, about a quarter of a minute the man let go of it, & drifted astern under the mizzen chains. Four or five of the seamen jumped over into the chains & swung him more ropes. But his conduct was unaccountable; he could have saved himself, had he been so minded. I was struck by the expression of his face in the water. It was merry. At last he drifted off under the ship's counter, & all hands cried "He's gone!" Running to the taffrail, we saw him again, floating off--saw a few bubbles, & never saw him again. No boat was lowered, no sail was shortened, hardly any noise was made. The man drowned like a bullock. It afterwards turned out, that he was crazy, & had jumped overboard. He had declared he would do so several times; & just before he did jump, he had tried to get possession of his child, in order to jump into the sea, with the child in his arms. His wife was miserably sick in her berth. The Captain said that this was the fourth or fifth instance he had known of people jumping overboard. He told a story of a man who did so, with his wife on deck at the time. As they were trying to save him, the wife said it was no use; & when he was drowned, she said "there were plenty more men to be had." Amiable creature!--By night, it blew a terrific gale, & we hove to. Miserable time! nearly every one sick, & the ship rolling, & pitching in an amazing manner. About midnight, I rose & went on deck. It was blowing horribly--pitch dark, & raining. The Captain was in the cuddy, & directed my attention "to those fellows" as he called them,--meaning several "Corposant balls" on the yard arms & mast heads. They were the first I had ever seen, & resembled large, dim stars in the sky.